A taste of space: a team in western Japan makes beer using yeast that has reached the stratosphere

TOKUSHIMA – The yeast that transported a balloon to Earth’s stratosphere is being used in a special beer thanks to the efforts of a team including Tokushima University in this western Japanese city and a local brewery.

The yeast exposed to sub-zero temperatures and strong ultraviolet rays would have made the beer more fruity and spicier than those brewed with regular yeast. The batch of Kamiyama beer from nearby Kamiyama is slated for release in the fall, and people will soon be able to taste its unique delicacies for themselves.

According to people including project manager Osamu Sahara, associate professor at the Graduate School of Technology, Industrial and Social Sciences at Tokushima University, the stratospheric environment is harsh, with strong ultraviolet rays and temperatures as low as they are below. 70 degrees Celsius.

Sahara came up with the idea of ​​sending yeast into the stratosphere as part of research to determine whether the characteristics of microorganisms would be altered by the hostile environment. The yeast was chosen for its use in regional revitalization. The project came true after Sahara proposed it to Kamiyama Beer, who uses local ingredients to make beer.

A weather balloon containing brewer’s yeast is seen soaring. (Photo courtesy of Tokushima University Associate Professor Osamu Sahara)

With the help of start-up Gocco Inc. based in Gifu prefecture, the team released the yeast – stored in special acrylic containers measuring about 2 centimeters thick and 10 cm wide – in the prefecture. de Mie in summer 2020, using a weather balloon. The balloon burst at an altitude of about 30 kilometers, and two and a half hours later, the samples that were dropped to Earth were recovered.

Despite fears that the yeast would be completely killed in the harsh environment, most of them survived. The beer made with it imparted a different flavor and taste, which Sahara praised, saying: “The characteristics of the yeast have changed for a good way”.

Kamiyama Beer started a batch using the yeast that reached the stratosphere in April 2021. They plan to add the yeast to the wort to ferment for two weeks, bottle and let the brew sit for seven to 10 weeks. days, then age them in the refrigerator for one to two months.

Some 180 liters are brewed with the aim of releasing beer this fall. Brewery owners Manus Sweeney, 41, and Sayaka Abe, 41, said they hope people who cannot travel far due to the coronavirus pandemic can have fun while drinking beer and thinking about space.

“Microorganisms and humans live in close harmony,” Sahara said. “I hope that beer can serve as an opportunity for people to take an interest in biodiversity.”

(Japanese original by Sakura Iwamoto, Tokushima Bureau)

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